Restricting wolves risks escape
- L. David Mech, Warren Ballard, Ed Bangs, and Bob Ream
Implementing the proposal set forth by Licht and colleagues (BioScience 60: 147–153) requires restricting wolves to tiny "islands," areas that are magnitudes smaller than the ranges of most wolf populations. Wolves naturally have large ranges; restricting their spatial needs increases the risk of wolves escaping, exacerbating public relations and political and legal problems.
These problems would not be solved by (a) scaring back straying radioed wolves; (b) controlling reproduction; or (c) the use of physical, virtual, or biological barriers. The problem is not wolves breeding; it is wolves killing livestock and pets, or at least people fearing they will. Standard wolf-proof barriers are 10-feet-high, chain-link fences with a 4-foot apron buried 2-feet below ground. Virtual fences, shock-collars with electrodes continually touching the skin, and frequent battery replacement are all problematic, even for captive wolves (Shivik et al. 2002). Scent-marking and howling, controls suggested by Licht and colleagues, can affect wolf movements, but our research demonstrates that trespass is common (Mech 1994).
The prospects for public tolerance of such costly and intensive management seems dim anytime soon.
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- Restricting wolves risks escape
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- American Institute of Biological Sciences
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- Washington, D.C.
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- Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
- 2 p.
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